Psychology Today magazine has agreed to stop advertising and listing mental health practitioners who offer “gay cure” conversion therapy.
The American publication came under pressure from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the largest LGBT rights organisation in the US, to stop including these services in its directory.
An HRC staff member last month noticed a listing for a California therapist who claims to help “men with unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA) reverse their attraction to men and increase their attraction to women.”
The organisation wrote to Psychology Today arguing that it should be “taking prompt action to limit this type of advertisement and creating awareness about the danger of conversion therapy.”
At first, the magazine refused to budge. Charles Frank, who is in charge of the directory, told Huffington Post that while Psychology Today is “not a fan” of conversion therapy, “we take care not to sit in judgement of others by allowing or denying individual participation.”
As the issue became increasingly public, the magazine soon reversed course and issued a terse statement on Tuesday, saying that it “does not endorse or publish ads for reparative therapy in print, online or in professionals’ profiles.”
It also stated that it has removed the listing for “the individual whose profile included a discussion of conversion therapy” and that “we have informed all Directory professionals that those whose profiles offer conversion therapy will be delisted.”
The move was welcomed by HRC. “So-called ‘conversion therapy’ is a dangerous and discredited practice that puts vulnerable people, including children, at terrible risk,” said Fred Sainz, HRC Vice President for Communications and Marketing.
“Not only is there no evidence that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression can be ‘cured,’ but research also shows that attempting to do so can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts, particularly in young people.”
“Psychology Today’s decision to reject purveyors of such medically-invalid practices is a welcome and much-needed step in the right direction,” Sainz said.
Major medical and mental health organisations around the world – including The South African Society of Psychiatrists – have denounced efforts to change sexual orientation or gender expression as ineffective and potentially harmful.
The US states of New Jersey and California and the city of Washington D.C. have banned gay and lesbian youth under the age of 18 from being subjected to conversion therapy. Last month, England’s National Health Service (NHS) told its staff to stop referring patients for this kind of “treatment”.